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Freitag, 10.07.2020
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Substantial government funds are now allocated to support the rapid development of e-government, Deputy Minister of research, innovation and digital policy Kyriacos Kokkinos told the Cyprus Mail in an interview.

“Thanks to the pipeline of €350 million euros made available, the ministry will be able to implement 160 e-government services (considerably more than the 50 deemed essential). A budget of €20 to 30 million has been allocated for these services.”

“The government has been engaged before the pandemic crisis in reinforcing the tech sector on the island. The approach is two-pronged, creating a visa to host services from abroad, and in attracting skilled Cypriots from the Diaspora to return to Cyprus.”

“Businesses may be incentivized to host services in Cyprus, and that brings in technology and know-how that otherwise couldn’t be found here,” the Deputy Minister points out.

While the talent pool is still too small, we have attracted more than 7,000 IT pros, most of whom are now in Limassol. These are not youngsters, but seasoned professionals and we are attracting more. Ultimately this will lead to cross-fertilization among professionals and an increase in local startups.

As our tech eco-system grows, we will also begin to attract venture capital through our SME Equity Fund. The government has allocated 20 million euro to this fund, and it will be used in combination with other lenders.

These lenders will commit their own funds in combination with the money from the government for which we do not expect any return. Distribution through banks will ensure that projects are vetted properly for viability before receiving funding.

The Electronic Signature is a high priority for Cyprus, the Deputy Minister continued, and their use in e-government, working with qualified providers, will begin shortly.

Cyprus’ law for Electronic Signatures was enacted in 2018 and based on European regulation 910/2014/EU which matches that of most other developed countries. By convention, standard forms of electronic signatures are widely accepted today, for example in the UK, but there is a caveat.

In Cyprus as in the UK, for an electronic signature to have legal validation (and therefore be usable in e-government), it must be purveyed by a Qualified Trust Service Provider and created by qualified electronic signature technology.

The Department of Electronic Communications of the Ministry of Communications and Works has been designated as the competent authority for the certification of all Qualified Trust Service Providers.

For now, no company in Cyprus has yet received this qualification, and that is holding up rollout of e-signatures. Companies may use them at their own discretion for payments, for example, but a court might question their validity.

“The government is also working to raise the number of STEM graduates in Cyprus – for now the figure is far too low. And this is of concern given the growing importance of digital technologies and artificial intelligence at the workplace.”

At the root of the problem, Kokkinos says, is the failure of the schools to identify students with the potential for STEM education early enough. “We need to start students off at a much younger age. This is a cultural issue, but we are working to change this culture in our education system,” Kokkinos explains.

Statistics on this subject are formidable. Cyprus is well behind the rest of the EU in educating STEM graduates, at a time when nearly 46 per cent of new jobs created in the EU require STEM skills, according to the EU Education and Training Monitor for 2019.

There are also too many unskilled workers in the labour force. Specifically, these are individuals aged 25-64 who are employees, self-employed or family workers. The proportions of those with low digital skills (32 per cent) or only basic digital skills (34 per cent) are higher than the EU average (25 per cent and 30 per cent).

By contrast, those reporting above-basic digital skills are fewer in Cyprus (22 per cent) than across the EU (36 per cent). Moreover, Cyprus has one of the lowest proportions of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates in the EU.

The proportion of Cypriot schools with a high provision of digital equipment (laptops, desktop computers, cameras, whiteboards) per number of students and a high broadband speed is lower than the EU average at both primary and secondary level. (European Commission, 2019).

Comparatively few schools provide strong digital support: 21 per cent at primary, 40 per cent at lower secondary and 59 per cent at upper secondary level compared to 32 per cent, 54 per cent and 84 per cent respectively, the report shows.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Andrew Rosenbaum

Quelle/Source: Cyprus Mail, 19.05.2020

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